I’ve always struggled with the concept of life after death. Does our soul lives on in the minds and hearts of those we’ve touched? Can it exist separately on another dimension? If the soul survives, is it possible to actually communicate with a lost loved one? Can they come to us in times of need to give us comfort? Or when we die is that it–over, finished, end of story?
Although I’m no stranger to existential dilemmas, it’s been constantly on my mind since I lost my husband in 2016. I feel his spirit intensely throughout our home. We lived here together for 15 years, so naturally there are many associations to times we shared. But it’s more than that. My husband’s presence seems to grab onto me, and before I know it I’m in the throws of anxiety.
The hardest time for me is going to sleep at night. I’m flooded with memories and I can’t get him out of my mind. In bed, we loved talking through the endless details of our day. We’d hold hands or swing a leg over the other, and the sharing was easy. Regardless of the issue, in bed we would listen and always be gentle with each other. It’s where we felt closest and the most as ease.
I thought it would make a difference if I made some changes. So I bought a new mattress and indulged in all the bedding. I even put down new carpet. Rex is still there the second I sit on the (new) mattress. I do my best to shut out the feelings and push them away, but he haunts me. My friend Susan suggests I embrace his spirit and let the feelings in. She’s right, of course, I just don’t know how to do it.
At night I enjoy sitting in a dimly lit corner of my room. I sink into the big, cushy chair and I’m comforted by its softness and warmth. I stay there as long I can, until I start nodding off. I’m afraid to get up and go to bed, because I know what will happen. Once I take the eight steps across the room, I’ll be wide awake.
I can keep most of my fears in check during the day, but in the darkness of night my anxiety’s unleashed. What if I have a nightmare, will it overwhelm me? If I get sick in the night, will I be able to take care of myself? I have people who love me, but when I’m alone in bed I lose sight of that reality. Will I always be alone? What if I get a terminal illness? Will I linger and be a burden to my family or will I be blessed with a peaceful death?
On difficult nights, I soothe myself by getting something to eat and bringing it to bed. I know full well that food won’t do the trick, but old habits die hard. Sometimes I stave off my fears by distracting myself with social media or reading a book. Whatever I do, I know it will take a while before I can settle down again and fall asleep.
Last night as usual, I got up from my chair at the last possible moment. There is meditation music playing softly on my phone, and the house is quiet and warm. I walk across the room and the familiar anxiety start to take hold. But instead of giving in to it, I close the light, get under the covers and focus on the softness of my new, luxurious down comforter.
I start to consciously slow my breathing and still my body. I relax my shoulders and neck to release the tension, and that’s when I feel it. My eyes are closed, but I see a dark shadow cross over my mind’s eye. I know it is Rex and for a moment I feel him drift passed me. I concentrate on him and the dark shadow returns. As it envelops me, a light seems to pierce through. And for the first time in months I start to feel calm.
It is Rex’s spirit, I’m sure of it. But instead of chasing it away, I welcome it. I feel his love and embrace his spirit. I remember the deep connection we shared and the strength of our commitment to each other. He could always comfort me just by being nearby and joining with my deepest self—no judgement, no criticism, just acceptance and love. I am finally able to understand my friend Susan’s message. If I let him in, Rex will come to me in bed when I need him the most. His soul will provide me with comfort and healing.
Although I miss the peace I so easily felt with Rex, I am beginning to find it on my own. When I get into bed at night, I slow my breathing and try to calm myself. Then I focus on a specific memory of our being deeply connected. I see it play out in my mind and I feel his presence. It actually works. For a few precious moments he is with me and I am warmed by his love.
I’m not sure if this is life after death, but my husband comes to me in the comfort of our bed. Will I be able to transform my fears and anxiety into peace and acceptance? I’m certainly trying. When his soul reaches out to me I openly embrace it. Rex’s love was a blessing, an unselfish gift that is an integral part of who I am. When I cherish the memories, I can accept the present and have hope for my future.